City of Refuge, Hawaii (Big Island)

5 out of 5 stars 5 Stars - 16 Reviews

Puuhonua O Honaunau Nat'l Historical Park 808-328-2288

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  • The turtle my son spotted
    The turtle my son spotted
    by ArenJo
  • My son leading us over the lava
    My son leading us over the lava
    by ArenJo
  • Structure at the park
    Structure at the park
    by ArenJo
  • sarams's Profile Photo

    Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park

    by sarams Updated Apr 3, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Ki'i (wood carvings) with a scenic backdrop
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    UPDATE: This park was damaged by a tsunami on March 11, 2011. As of April 2011, the park remains closed as officials assess the damage.

    Ancient Hawaiian justice was rather harsh. If you broke most kapu (laws), you faced the death penalty. One way to avoid this was to make it to a Place of Refuge such as this one. You certainly feel the peace and security of this place as you look at the ki'i (wood carvings) and the magnificent views all around.

    The fee to enter is $5. Free entry with National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass ($80).

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  • syrin's Profile Photo

    Pu'uhonua O Honaunau Temple South Kona Big Island

    by syrin Updated Nov 20, 2008
    Temple Hale o Keawe Heiau
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    This was a really neat place to see. It is an old religeous site that is called the place of refuge because in the old days if you broke sacred laws the chiefs would sentenced you to death. The only way you could get out of being killed is to make it here without your pursuers catching you. If you made it then all would be fogiven and you would continue to live. So this is a place for forgiveness. I just liked seeing the old statues.

    There is an outdoor museum here that you can check out. There is a fee which is $5.00 for a 7 day pass. When we went it was closed due to something but we snuck past the gates anyways. This was one of the main things that I wanted to see and I was not going home without seeing it.

    The area with the carved statues is Hale o Keawe Heiau Meainging Temple. There is also the royal grounds and the great wall. When we got there the sun was about to go down so we just went strait to the temple to check out the old carved statues. There is also a pic nic area if you want to take a break and eat something.

    If it is closed seriosley just sneak in. We only stayed long enough to take a few pics. This would be something to do earlier in the day. Take bug repellent. Their are many bugs here especially at night time when the mosquitos want to have a snack. If you do get bit do not itch, or it will bug you really bad.

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    Must see:Puuhonua O Honaunau Nat'l Historical Park

    by AKtravelers Written Nov 23, 2007

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    The heiau at Puuhonua O Honaunau Nat'l Historical
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    In ancient Hawaiian times, breaking a taboo (kapu) was punishable by death. The only way out of this gruesome fate was to escape to a place of refuge, such as Puuhonua O Honaunau. This may seem childish to us, but it was deadly serious business to the ancient Hawaiians, who took the cleansing power of being atthe heiau (temple) very seriously. In fact, Kamehameha I had ordered one of his opposing generals killed during one of his earlier campaigns, but the man made it to a refuge temple and was spared. Eventually, when Kamehameh united the Hawaiian islands, he made that very same person one of his ministers.
    Puuhonua O Honaunau Nat'l Historical Park is one of the most significant heiaus and places of refuge in the hawaiian Islands. It is carefully and minimally reconstructed so that you can imagine what it was like in its pre-contact days, without feeling the tackiness, say, of Tombstone, Arizona. You can truly imagine that this would be a great royal compound of the early Hawaiians. Don't miss it!

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    Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

    by Jim_Eliason Updated Apr 3, 2007

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    Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
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    This was a place of refugee where ancient Hawaiians could escape to and live if they were banished from their own district or if they were sentenced to death and could make it here they would be safe and recieve sanctuary. However once they made it here they could never leave. On the sight are preserved temples and village walls along with recreated houses.

    This is also a great place to see honu (sea turtles).

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  • RickinDutch's Profile Photo

    City of Refuge

    by RickinDutch Updated Sep 11, 2006

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    Gurding the city of refuge
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    Trully an awesome experience!

    Pu'uhonua o Honaunau is a special place and ranks up there with Volcano Park for me. In the days of old, there were a huge amount of laws that people were bound by. If you broke a rule, chances were the consequence would be an ugly death. The only way to avoid such a fate was to reach the sacred City of Refuge. There is a lot see here so count on 2-3 hours.

    The City of Refuge was made anational park in 1961 and it is said to be the best example of a place of refuge in the islands. Reconstructed houses and temples can be seen. The beach where only the king could step foot and land his canoe. The foundation of the very large original temple is still there. The grounds are well tended. Lots of turtles (see photo). Wooden carvings of ancient totem-like statues abound. Best of all is the ancient dry stone wall - 1000' long, 10' high and 17' thick - all built without mortar! Some recreated ancient games, some petroglyphs, and the king's bench are all there to see and touch.

    There is a fee of $5 per car to park, but noone was collecting the day we were there and no place to put the money as far as I could tell (I looked - really).

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  • keeweechic's Profile Photo

    Wooden Images of Hawaiian Gods

    by keeweechic Updated Sep 4, 2006

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    In front of Pu’uhonua O Honaunau stands carved-wood representations of ancient Hawaiian gods.

    Pu'uhonua O Honaunau was only one of two temples to survive King Kamehameha II ordering the destruction of temples throughout the Islands in 1918.

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    Pu'uhonua O Honaunau

    by keeweechic Updated Sep 3, 2006

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    Pu'uhonua O Honaunau (Place of Refuge) National Historical Park . Within the 180-acre park is the restored temple complex of Hale O Keawe Heiau, originally built in 1650, surrounded by carved wooden images of Hawaiian gods.

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    City of Refuge

    by Royal63 Updated May 10, 2006

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    One of the huts at the state park.
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    Puuhonua O Honaunau on the Big Island of Hawaii is the most famous and
    best preserved of Hawaii's ancient places of refuge. Designated a national
    historical park in 1961, this 182-acre site includes the puuhonua and a
    complex of archeological sites, including temple platforms, royal fishponds,
    sledding tracks and some coastal village sites. Join more than 375,000
    visitors each year and immerse yourself in the rich history of the area and
    discover intriguing facts about the early Hawaiians' way of life.

    At the park, you'll encounter canoe builders constructing an outrigger
    canoe the way it was built in ancient times. There are demonstrations of
    traditional Hawaiian games, including spear throwing competitions. Examine a
    massive L-shaped wall, built around 1550 from thousands of lava rocks, which
    separated the chief's home from the puuhonua. Inside this 1,000-foot-long
    wall are fine examples of temples and homes of old Hawaii.

    Hikers can follow a trail that winds along the coast for about a mile
    to the park boundary. The trail includes several archeological sites,
    including heiau (temples) and sledding tracks.

    Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is open daily.
    Orientation talks are provided several times a day at the park's
    amphitheater. On the last weekend of June, the park holds its annual
    cultural festival with hula performances, Hawaiian games, and arts and
    crafts demonstrations.

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    Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park

    by yooperprof Written Aug 9, 2005

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    honor your ancestors

    This National Historic Park is on the site of the traditional sanctuary where individual who broke "kapu" (or taboo) rules could find protection from the severe (often lethal) punishments that awaited those who displeased the gods.

    The centerpiece of the park is its reconstructed "Heiau" (or temple) where priests performed purifying rituals for those who sought refuge here. The "Hale o Keawe Heiau" also served as the burial site for many tribal chiefs. It's importance as hallowed ground of the ancestors is another one of the reasons that this was regarded as a tremendously sacred site (and still is regarded as such by many traditional Hawaiians).

    The historic site here is operated by the National Park Service, which also provides interpreters and an interesting introductory film. There is a small admittance fee that helps to pay for programming at the site.

    Check out my Travelogue for more pictures of the Pu'uhonua Sanctuary.

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  • City of Refuge

    by AmyBrown Written Mar 9, 2005

    Really well done National Park with ancient monuments, illustration of living quarters, lifestyle, beautiful location. In addition to the really nice museum and guided tour of the location, it was right on the water, and there were turtles in the bay. Also, after touring around the museum we went snorkeling across the bay from the Place of Refuge, and it was great snorkeling.

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  • jag17's Profile Photo

    Place of Refuge

    by jag17 Updated Jun 28, 2004

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    Enjoy the Beauty

    A 30 minute self guided tour takes you through the grounds and history of the park. Enjoy many archeological sites, thatched structures, and sea turtles sunning on the beach.

    Up until the 19th century, this site was used as a place of refuge. Hawaiians who broke an ancient law would flee here for safety. Absolved by a priest, they would then be free to leave. Defeated warriors could also find refuge here during times of battle.

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  • Royal63's Profile Photo

    Another picture from City of Refuge

    by Royal63 Updated Apr 24, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Reconstructed thatched structures.

    Pu`uhonua O Honaunau, formerly known as the City of Refuge Park, was set aside as a national historical park by Congress on July 1, 1961. Hawaiians who broke a kapu or one of the ancient laws against the gods could avoid certain death by fleeing to this place of refuge or "pu`uhonua". Utilizing many local artists and artisans with authentic and traditional tools, the National Park Service has worked very hard to restore the site to its appearance in the late 1700's.
    The park has two major sections, the Palace Grounds and the Pu`uhonua O Honaunau, the Place of Refuge. Separating the two areas of the park is the Great Wall.You will walk past a reconstructed temple, the Hale o Keawe Heiau. The original temple, built around 1650 and long ago destroyed, housed the bones of at least 23 chiefs. As late as 1818, a son of Kamehameha I was buried on these sacred grounds. It was believed that the mana in the bones of the dead chiefs gave additional protection to the place of refuge.The offender would absolved by a priest and freed to leave. Defeated warriors and non-combantants could also find refuge here during times of battle.
    Once you have passed the temple you have entered Pu`uhonua. People who had been sentenced to death for breaking kapu fled to this section to seek refuge, often by swimming across the entire bay. Also came men, women and children, those weak and ill, those defeated in battle, or those who were non-combatants in battle but on the losing side. The grounds just outside the Great Wall that encloses the pu`uhonua were home to several generations of powerful cheifs. The 182 acre park, established in 1961, includes the pu`uhonua and a complex of archeological sites inculding: temple platforms, royal fishponds, sledding tracks, and some coastal village sites.
    As you work you way back to the Visitor Center you walk past the the royal fishpond. Fish caught exclusively for the chiefs were placed in this pond.The Haloe o Keawe temple and several thatched strucures have been reconstructed.

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  • 2rs's Profile Photo

    Sometimes atractions need maintenance

    by 2rs Updated Feb 21, 2004

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    The Place of Refuge, under maintenace

    Pu'uhonua o Honaunau is where the royal chiefs had one of their most important residences. The pu'uhonua was a place of refuge for defeated warriors, noncombatants in time of war and those who violated the kapu. The place was built around 1550 and was abandoned in 1818 when King Kamehameha II abolished traditional religious practices.

    I was unfortunate to find that the main atraction, the replica of the actual place of refuge was under maintenace during my visit, but then again it will not be surounded by the scafoldings for a while to come.

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  • TropicGirl77's Profile Photo

    City of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau

    by TropicGirl77 Updated Apr 23, 2003

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    City of Refuge

    Visiting the City of Refuge will give you the feeling of being in olden Hawaii. Here is where in the olden days, someone in trouble could find sanctuary, and pardon (but only if they made it to the site) Trust me, it wasn't the easiest place to find according to our travel map! The layout is beautiful! You will find three heiau's here (ancient temple grounds) There are huts set up where you can view traditional wood carving. Walk around and see some of the ancient relics and games. The tidal pools alone could have kept me there all day long!

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  • ArenJo's Profile Photo

    Royal visit

    by ArenJo Written Jan 16, 2014
    Entrance / exit of the park
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    This is convenient to Kona. My son enjoyed leading us over the lava rock and spotting a sea turtle in the water nearby as well as many crabs. There are modern bathrooms near the entrance.

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